Trail Chronicles #24: The Other Side of Timberland

There are still so much to look at here at Timberland and explore. If you look past the former garbage dump when you’re on the trails past Shotgun Road, there’s a nice little chunk of woods at the other side of this dumpster that runners try to avoid because it’s either stinky running near it or they just don’t know how to get there.

But not any more. Dumping of trash has been controlled and the stench coming from this landfill has been reduced considerably as there is a landfill-to-energy project here that captures methane and converted into natural gas and energy resource.

There are a few runnable trails that connects the usual trails inside Timberland Heights and past this landfill with several smaller offshoot trails. Perennial trail running partner Jun and i went beyond our comfort zones and explored a few kilometers of random single track paths. You run through both wide open areas and under a lush treeline and can truly get the feeling of floating over a mountain ridge even though you know you’re only a few breaths from a landfill!

It’s been almost 6 months since i came last to this place. There were routes that are now barricaded with steel wires near the back entrance of Timberland as the land owners want to limit bikers and runners who frequent the area so be prepared to venture out for alternate routes.

Here’s a glimpse of our Timberland adventure:

Trail Chronicles #15: The Trails of Silangan To Wawa

This is one of the roughest but most picturesque trail runs that i have ever done! It’s tough not because of the hills that were constant on the trails of Silangan in San Mateo, Rizal but more of the heat which were hovering in the mid 30s. Running in mid-day for about 6 hours certainly does not make it any easier when you’re exposed in open spaces but the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction is well worth it.

This is one of the more popular trail routes many trail running enthusiasts use on their training runs. What makes the run more worthwhile for me is running this route with my teammates (Team 90%) for the first time, given how some of them really don’t like running on trails. So we all met up early last Sunday, at 4:00am in Pure Gold Supermarket and after parking our rides, we started our run towards Barangay Silangan, near Timberland Heights.

I’ve ran these trails before except for those in Silangan, which is where the trail part starts. From Pure Gold on the main highway of San Mateo, it took us about 7 kms of concrete roads inside small baranggays before reaching Silangan, working our way through small villages leading up to several low mountains.

The trails and rough roads from Silangan, Timberland, Pintong Bukawe, Amianan, Casile and finally to Wawa where the famous Wawa Dam is located is one scenic route one would expect. The trail route starts in an undeveloped subdivision and goes up a grassy valley with rocks on the apex that leads to trail ridges overlooking the Timberland Heights.

Up there, it’s a cascade of rolling hills, forests, open fields then exit out an open gate and suddenly realize that you were inside the Timberland trails all along. Then down we went to Pintong Bukawe, scene of the Merrell Trail route all the way to Casile then to the Marikina River leading to Wawa.

Hill crests, river crossings, single track trails, towering bamboo trees, unparalleled views–this is a route of an unforgettable trail run. Well, we were worried about the glaring heat but still some parts of the trail were windy and cool so you didn’t feel uncomfortable running and once you got used to the sun, you were fine.

The run took us about 6 hours to finish covering about 25k to 30k at the most. It wasn’t easy but you do get to enjoy the scenery. This run was to prep us on our forthcoming trail races at the NTDR Pimco Trail Run this Sunday and the Soleus Nuvali 50k/30 trail race on June 29.

Hope you like these pictures taken of our run:

Team 90% with Ultra runner Gene Olvis whom we saw on our way to Silangan

Entrance to the trails

Uphill to the mountains

The view of Timberland Heights below

Going up that ridge while Chito and Leo were waiting for us at the top

Nearing the top

With the “ninjas’ at the top

It’s on at the Timberland Trails

The ninja look. It’s the only way to beat the sweltering heat!

The view from the top

Betty and Tonette on one of the bamboo bridges

Betty with her improvised pole sticks

Picking out Kasuy along the way

Chito walking over the streams

Back to the trails

The green pond

Chito patiently waiting…

Downhill towards Casili

Bumping into ultrarunner, Jon Las Bruce

Last pit stop before proceeding to Casile and Wawa

Main river of Montalban (using an old Nokia CP cam)

Run culminates at Wawa Dam

1st Waldorf Trail Run: A Race Recap

My appreciation to trail running started when i joined my first trail race at Timberland Heights, the All Terra King of the Mountain Trail Run way back 2009. Trail running wasn’t that much popular then as now although The North Face Race series was already staging trail races much earlier.

I was so fascinated by the experience of running through wooded forests, river crossings, communing with nature and much more that i made it a point to run as much trails as i can, if time and opportunity permits. Succeeding races and training runs at Timberland ensued.

So last Sunday, i was back here to run the inaugural Waldorf  10k Trail Run. The Manila Waldorf is a school located inside the Timberland Heights, Filinvest Estate, just a stone’s throw away from the trail head. I wasn’t even aware that there was a school located inside this estate as we didn’t give much notice to the ongoing development in the area. After all, we came here for the trails!

Woke up early and arrive at the Centris Mall near Quezon Blvd at about 4:30 am so i could avail of the service vans which will take some of the runners to the race venue. I met with Mike Antigua, one of the race organizers who was overseeing the transportation of the runners and long-time running friend Dennis (the RunningPinoy) who was also running the 10k.

The race started a few minutes late as it was still dark in the area but we were off as soon as brightness lit up around us at about 6:15am. It was nice to be running on familiar terrain, the cool breeze was invigorating as we tackled the single track trails around the hill-tops at the beginning with the views of the Sierra Madre Mountains visible on either your left or right side.

As always, i brought in my camera and record some of the new trails that were part of the course.

There were adequate hydration stations every 2 kms of the route but i didn’t expect that this was going to be a no-cup race so you had to bring your own hydration bottle or container. I just had with me a bottle-full of Gatorade so when i wanted to have water, i used the cap of the blue plastic container that were on the tables, poured water on it and scooped right from it!

Approaching kilometer 8, we were diverted into a unused trail that cuts-off from the main road leading to the finish and the views here were wonderful and serene. I was on a roll during that time but stopped every time i saw a good view and took shots from my camera.

Race marshals were adequate although i wished they had deployed some during the last kilometer when runners were distracted at a road construction site where barricades were blocking the road so we had to stop and ask the workers on which direction to go.

Other than that, the over-all organization, water stations, trail route and volunteers were laudable! There were adequate food stalls selling breakfast meals at the school grounds although you could line-up and get free hot dogs on a stick or in sandwich buns as many times as you like.

However, one concern of mine was on the ruling with regards to the winners. They did not have separate categories for the over-all male and female winners. They just awarded the top 3 placers regardless of sex which i think was unfair to the female 1st placer. I brought this concern to Mike and he said that he would rectify this issue immediately.

Over-all, i think Waldorf did a commendable job in staging its first race and learning from some of the bumps on this fun run, they should be able to stage a better race hopefully next year!

Here are some pictures of the event:

With friends before the start

With Dennis Ravanzo (Running Pinoy)

The start was delayed for a few minutes because it was still dark

Busy taking some pics above these hills

Lucky to have good cool weather this morning

Downhill part slows down the runners

The route was gently rolling, no major shifts on elevations

Yours truly (in blue) keeping up with the pace (Photo credits, Carlo Unson)

Inside the forested area of the Timberland Heights

Many scenes like this inside the forest trails

Trail in one open area frequented by bikers. Luckily, no bikes were allowed inside the trails during race day.

A rotonda, of sorts

Part of the scenery, overlooking the wide Sierra Madre mountains

The last 3kms offered some very nice trails

Last 2.5 kms.

This is a new trail that wasn’t open to races before and i’m glad they let us pass through here for the first time

At approximately the last 1.2 kms.

There’s more of this hillside trails

A downhill dash

Then another short uphill…

The one final push before hitting the dirt road and to the finish

Long lines at the finish to get some free hot dogs

Families and friends were gathered to greet the runners

The Waldorf School “picnic grounds”

A Look At Timberland’s Trail System: The Merrell Adventure Route

During our test run of the Merrell Adventure Race route at the Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal last Friday, i was amazed and surprised to venture into trails that were new to me, routes that were not used in trail races that i had joined in the past. I was bewildered about the vastness of this area that probably only a few runners and bikers have ventured to and the experience of running in uncharted territory was awesome!

I would later learn from the developers of the Timberland Resorts nearby that the trail system itself consisted of about 42 kilometers of trails stretched inside Timberland Heights, long enough to stage a marathon on forest woods. Among these trails are bike trails dubbed as the Eco-trail which had been long popular to mountain bike enthusiasts.

Thumbie Remigio, Race Director of the Merrell Adventure Run which will be held on June 2, 2012 took us along the 10k route and he said that 60% of the trails have not been used in past races. The terrain at Timberland offers everything from flat, grassy meadows to long climbs and technical single-track and switch-backs.

In all, there will be 10 kilometers of running to explore, with several sections of single-track, double-track, dirt roads, river traverse and waterfalls. Runners of all abilities will enjoy the variety of terrain. And did i already say that there will be mud crawls on parts of the route?

The scenery alone would make this a very spectacular run. Our test-run was fun and challenging with others even taking a dive at a deep river pond. You can run the route slow and cautiously, or hard and fast if you are an expert trail runner. Whichever way you run, you are bound to have a blast!

Here are the pictures of the 10k and 21k trail route. Enjoy and see you on June 2!

Runners will have the option to cross the river through this bamboo bridge or…(see pictures below)

…dive into the river itself!

…and here! (that’s Thumbie’s wife who is also a runner)

Merrell Adventure Race Organizer, Thumbie Remigio

One long uphill climb

Where we came from

This part of the trail was covered with bamboo trees

A white lady appears with a bolo!

We stop at a crossroad. Even Thumbie forgot our way out!;-)

The Jazzrunner, 1.5 kms before the end of the run

The trail runners with the Merrell group and the race organizing team

With Jojo, Ed, Allan and Baves

The Shotgun Route: A Mountain and Trail Run Odyssey

Running 38.3 kilometers in scorching heat seems lunatic specially when it’s about 33 to 34 degrees at its peak out there at the Shotgun Run last Saturday. Crazy as it were, we actually did get to enjoy every minute of it and it seemed to be one enormous victory over the elements of running non-stop hills, undulating mountain roads and technical trails on a route that is known as the “Shotgun Route!”

I only heard about this route through friends on Facebook and they keep raving about its difficulty, the vastness of experiencing a road-hills-mountain and trail run, all pictured into one loop of pure exhilaration that it has become a favorite of many runners.

It was now time to discover it as well. Some members of our running team, Team 90% (don’t ask why it was called such) composed of Mel, Chito, Tonet, Betty, Sylvia, myself and an office mate of Sylvia’s set off in 2 cars and arrived at SSS Village in Marikina and parked the cars in front of an old running friend’s house, Dave Buban. Dave wasn’t running with us that morning and was just content in looking-out after the vehicles while we were out on our run.

I was a bit excited but a little concerned as to whether my plantar issues was going to plague and stop me again on my tracks. The good news is that the bum heel seem to heal very nicely after my disastrous Salomon Trail Run three weeks ago and thereafter, i was able to lodge 15-21k LSD runs with no pain at all.

When we arrived at Dave’s place, some runners were already there ahead of us. Ultra-runners Doc Toto Mina, Jael Wenceslao and Keisha Fule were waiting so we could all start together. We warmed-up with a few minutes of walking and when we were on a flat terrain, we were off running.

Our 5:30am start was rather late as the sun had risen just a few kilometers after we had started. We passed by a few private villages in Marikina, crawled under closed village gates and even got lost from the first group who were leading us by a few hundred meters. From Marikina we entered San Mateo, on its backdoor entrance going through continuous uphills and downhills and flourishes of trees that lined-up on most of the route.

SSS Village borders the hilly town of San Mateo

One of the hilly routes that we had to take

We finally arrived at the road leading to Timberland Heights. The welcome sign to Timberland was familiar to me although i was used to seeing this from the MAIN entrance coming from J.P. Rizal Road where many cyclists seem to be more familiar with. Another kilometer and we made a stop-over at Aling Tinay’s small eatery where our group partook Lugao with boiled eggs and boiled bananas that was to be one crucial nourishment break to survive the dreaded Shotgun Road and trails.

The start of the mountain pass (Shotgun) that climbs up to Timberland

Less than 2 kilometers is the 1st entrance to Timberland Heights, a dizzying uphill of a mountain about 3.5 kilometers long although there is another entrance which is the main one along C-6 Road all the way to Timberland Avenue and is a kilometer away on the north. We took the first entrance.

Just looking at the winding zigzag road going up that mountain, i couldn’t envision myself running those steep inclines. No way! All of us decided to walk those uphills except for Mel (our group’s master show-off) who seems to be reminding us who the King of the Mountain is!:-)

It was at this point when Chito told me that this was the notorious Shotgun Road they were raving about! Damn! A mini Kennon Road of sorts! Here are some pictures i took of the route:

An ordeal of a climb

No shame in walking! Even that mountain biker had to stop and rest.

L-R: Mel, Sylvia, Tita Betty, Ninang Tonet and Chito

This is the "shotgun" route!

We still had to scale up that green peak at the background

Ninang Tonet meets Doc-Romy who was on his way down

The top of the mountain was fascinating! There was a slight cool mountain breeze, breath-taking mountainscape and a picturesque view of Metro Manila. The only draw-back to this route is the constant passing of garbage dump trucks which utilizes this road to dump some of the metro’s garbage into the nearby San Mateo Sanitary dump site. It sometimes pollutes the fresh air that breezes along the canyon ridges.

After a few more climbs, we finally reached the start of the Timberland trails. I’m very familiar with these trails, having ran here several times both during training and trail races although this particular entrance is new to me. At an elevation twice that of Antipolo City, this serene and breezy mountain retreat affords a panoramic view from Laguna de Bay to Mount Arayat in the north.

It was a gorgeous day to run these trails as they were damp, dry and gave my feet and legs a respite from all the pounding we did at the earlier miles. It was starting to get hot and the only concern i had was we were running out of water and the next stop was about 4 kms more when we would emerge out of the trails.

The trails wound up through scenic gorges, lush foliage within a virgin forest although the surface began to be more technical as you enter deep into the woods. Knowing the trails by heart, i was able to skid out ahead of the group and after a few more kilometers, found my way out of the jungle passing by the Timberland Country Club and into the main gate where a small eatery often frequented by cyclists was situated. Took gulps of Gatorade, Cobra Energy drink and lots of water! Whew!

After about 10 minutes, the rest of the group arrived and we all enjoyed the break, taking in some bread, rice cakes and stacked-up more water into our hydration packs before we continued our journey back. We had already ran 24kms up to that point and there was another 14kms to complete the loop.

Here are some pictures of the trails:

The start of the trail to Timberland

Heat was staring to flare up at the start of our trail run

Thankful of the trees that kept us in shade for the most part of the trail run

The view at the opposite side of the trails

Mt. bikers shared the trails with us

Small rocks were all over the place

Mel leads the way

A haven for bikers too

A shaded portion

Keeping our steps at bay to avoid the small rocks

Final group pic before our run back to home base with 15 kms to go.

The trip back was one of the most arduous runs we ever had as we were basically being roasted under the sun. It was just 11:00am but the sun was above our heads so we constantly took walking breaks. At some hilly road, we stopped in front of a front yard and asked the house owner if we could pour ourselves water from a faucet that was situated just outside her doorstep. She might have thought that we were doing some sort of a post-Holy Week “penitencya” so she willingly let us in. We all doused our heads with ladle-full of water. And that was so refreshing!

At about 1:10pm, logging-in a total of 37 kms and temperatures hovering at about 34 degrees, we were now back inside SSS Village in Marikina, all dehydrated and here we were, back where we started but we couldn’t find Dave’s home! I was like a zombie moving aimlessly trying to figure out where the house was and then i realized that i lost sight of the group too! After a few minutes, i saw Betty calling me, waiving from a store and that they had found Dave’s home!

Total distance completed, 38.3 kms and run was finished at 1:30pm. I felt good except for the usual pain in the thighs and butt. And no pain on the plantar…Yebahh! The next day, i amazed myself by doing another 7kms recovery run near UP campus while i was playing the events on my head that transpired during our Shotgun run!

Though the Shotgun route was difficult as it was, i would like to believe that if you would have to do this route, you would also have to cover the relentless rolling hills of San Mateo, Rizal which are still untapped by many runners.

We are slated to do another long run of about 43kms on a new route Dave has discovered and dubbed the “Lost World”. I just hope we’ll be able to find our way back, alive and running!

A bird's eye view of the metropolis

Timberland Trails Revisited

timberlandIt has been a while since me and my training buddy, June set foot on a trail and that was way back 2 months ago. After that last run, it had been a grueling two months of getting my mileage up to 70+ kms a week as i plan (hope) to run the QCIM in 6 weeks and frankly, all this pounding in hard surfaces was getting my feet, legs and thighs all aching and sore. So running on the trails like dirt, sand and grass offered a welcome respite.

We took advantage of the long week-end, so last Saturday, we traveled down to San Mateo, Rizal, particularly to the Timberland Heights trails. This isn’t the first time we were running these trail as we previously had ran the same trails during the inaugural All Terra King of the Mountain 10k Trail Race last June of this year.

However, for this run last Saturday, we purposely did not re-trace the same race route we did at that race but took alternate paths that criss-crossed wooded trails over rolling terrain on dirt and macadam roads, a river and a maze of ravines. Low lying fruit-bearing trees were abundant along the route that we were able to bend the branches a bit to reach for guava and santol fruits and these would sustain us for the duration of our run.

The weather was moderately cool, cloudy, maybe over 70 degrees but it had slightly rained the day before so the trails were a bit slippery. After parking near the clubhouse, we started our run.

A view of Metro Manila

A view of Metro Manila

Start of the trail

Entrance of the trail

Of mists and mountains

Of mists and mountains

Trail was muddy as it rained the night before

Trail was muddy as it rained the night before

June follows my lead

June follows my lead

Inside the western portion of the trail

Inside the western portion of the trail

Following the macadam trail

Following the macadam trail

Slush and mud portions

Slush and mud portions

Past the isolated church

Past the isolated church

Little barrier

Little barrier

Up to the wilderness

Up to the wilderness

Threading through wild grass

Threading through wild grass and bamboo

More of hiking the single track trail

More of hiking the single track trail

Towards its inner sanctum

Towards its inner sanctum

Climbing up the slippery trail

Climbing up the slippery trail

View of the trail upwards

View of the trail upwards

June maneuvers on his way down

June maneuvers on his way down

Enjoying the stream

Enjoying the stream

Wish we had more time to dip our feet in the water

Wish we had more time to dip our feet in the water

June takes a closer view of the stream

June takes a closer view of the stream

Strong currents

Strong currents

We had pickings of ripe guavas along the trails.

We had pickings of ripe guavas along the trails.

Small creatures like this one form part of the trails

Small creatures like this one form part of the trails

Finding my way down

Finding my way down

On our way back

On our way back

Sign of our times

Sign of our times

The softer part of the trails

The softer part of the trails

Out of the woods

Out of the woods

Exiting the Maraat side of Timberland Heights

Exiting the Maarat side of Timberland Heights

The climb back

The climb back

The craters of Maarat

The craters of Maarat

To the top

To the top

The red wall

The red wall

Up to the top

Up to the top

Back to the Timberland Heights Clubhouse

Back to the Timberland Heights Clubhouse

The 11k run took about 2 and a half hours which included a lot of walking, eating and just stopping on our tracks to savor nature. It was nice to be back on the trails!